Pastor of Decatur United Methodist Church
In October I am traveling to D.C. to participate in a leadership fellowship. I’m sure that on Sunday evening I will be packing for my trip. Then Monday morning I will wake up early, pack up my truck, and drive to the Knoxville airport. I’ll have fun doing through security, then will make it to my gate, and load into the airplane when I’m told. Then I’ll find my seat, store my carry-on, and buckle up. Odds are things will go fine on my flight, but as we pull away from the jetway, I will begin to wonder how it is going to feel up in the sky.
Some people love to fly; I am not one of those people. This probably has a lot to do with being so tall, and there is no way to get comfortable in a seat on an airplane. But it is also the unnatural feeling of taking off and just hanging out thousands of feet above the ground.
And then…turbulence. Being in a tin can, everything starts shaking, the seat belt sign is lit in glowing amber. They stop drink service, and everyone finds their seat. The captain comes over the loud speaker. By this point, I’m trying to get right with God. I’m gripping the armrests and rethinking how I’ve lived my life. Now, the pilots I know aren’t bothered by turbulence. There are all these scientific reasons from why turbulence isn’t that big of a deal. It’s only a change in airflow, and airplanes are designed to withstand turbulence. They say turbulence hasn’t caused a plan to crash over 40 year. But, that doesn’t make me feel any better when my plane starts shaking.
If you are alive, you know that turbulence isn’t something that just happens in an aircraft. Sometimes the winds of life start rumbling and shaking your life just as turbulence rattles a plane. It can feel as if there are too many things to do and not enough time. Truth be told, that’s how I have felt recently. I don’t want to burden you with my work load, but I have been overwhelmed in the past month with the prospect of the overlapping timelines of many large projects. Everything is good, but everything seems to be falling in the same few weeks. And the turbulence is just shaking my sanity.
I know it’s not just me that sees life as turbulent. Many of you are in the midst of a turbulent season of life. I think about our high school students. There are tests, college applications, football games, practices, other extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, family obligations, doctors appointments, and on and on. Then others of you, you are taking your children or grandchildren to and from school; tying to get all the work done at home or on the farm. Many of you have older parents that you are also caring for. Many see retirement as an escape from the turbulence, but even in retirement things can go haywire. There are unexpected health issues, doctors’ appointments, unexplained pain, worries over finances, and on and on. Really, there is not a season of life that is not without its own turbulence.
It is because life can be turbulent that we are starting a new message series today, Medicine for the Turbulent Life. Through this series we will look at antidotes that we can find in the Bible to our turbulent lives. And I believe that as we explore some of this medicine we might find ways to live calmer, less turbulent and even more satisfying lives.
In thinking about the turbulence of life, one thing that we often end up doing is neglecting sleep. The old adage is “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” or “no rest for the weary.” In the midst of the hectic schedule and a turbulent life it is hard to find rest. The CDC reports that about 1 in 3 people don’t get enough sleep. We tend to put other things in front of rest, because there is so much to do. And then when it comes time to actually sleep your mind starts going through everything you still have left to do.
God must have known that we would struggle with turbulent lives, because in the Bible we see that God gives us some ways to remedy this craziness. If you have your Bible, turn with me to Exodus 20:8-11. In this part of the Bible we find what we often call the ten commandments. These are ten big commandments that God gives God’s people. Let me paint the picture for you a little bit.
We have these people called the Israelites, and they are enslaved in Egypt. The whole reason they were in Egypt in the first place is that they fled a famine in their native land. So they are refugees in Egypt, but the Egyptian government decides it doesn’t like these Israelites so it starts to discriminate against these refugees, it detains them, and basically makes them all slaves. To make a long story short, God hears the pain of the Israelites, and God send this guy named Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom into a new and promised land. It takes them about 40 years to finally get to the promised land, in fact, Moses dies before they ever make it.
These 40 years of walking were not just lost years. Instead, these 40 years were a time that God used to teach the Israelites how to live, how to love, and how to serve God. Part of what this meant is that God gave the Israelites guidelines of how they should live and build their new society.
Today, I want to focus on one particular commandment that God gave the Israelites. In Exodus 20:8-11, God told this to the Israelites:
8 Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. 9 Six days you may work and do all your tasks,
God knows that the Israelites are going to be busy. They are traveling, they are raising their families, they trying to get to a new land. And once they get to this new place they are going to have to establish their society. They have to work hard to build what they need and get things running. God knows that they will need to work, but also knows that humans have a tendency to work too much, so God says:
10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it
God knew that the Israelites would be tempted to try to work too much, after all their to-do list must have been huge. They are starting over in a new place. They have tons to do, and I am sure their lives were turbulent. But God says, “don’t even think about working nonstop; you have to take time to rest.” God says that the 7th day is the Sabbath. If we look at the Hebrew meaning of this word, we find that Sabbath means something like “to stop” or “to cease.” On the Sabbath we stop work, we cease the daily struggle of the other 6 days and we rest.
But God goes even further than that, it’s not just Israelites that need Sabbath—God tells them that everything and everyone needs to rest. Here’s what God says.
10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you.
God tells them that even the people who work for you need a day off; even your animals need a day off; even the immigrants that are living amongst you need a day off. God says everyone and everything needs rest. And then, God gives them the reason behind this day of rest:
11 Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Why does God want the people to rest, because even God needs rest. God says, I made everything in six days, then I took time to rest. If rest is good enough for God, rest is good enough for you.
The truth of the matter is, life is turbulent when you don’t rest. When you think you are better or, at least, stronger than God, and that you don’t need to rest—the turbulence of life is going to catch up. And while turbulence hasn’t caused a plane crash in 40 years, turbulence has caused plenty of life crashes.
This idea of Sabbath is given like a commandment, but if we step back for a moment we find the Sabbath is actually a gift.
Rabbi Jay Moses writes that Sabbath
is the greatest gift of the ancient Jewish people to human civilization. In its simplest form, Shabbat is a day set apart from the other days of the week, a day of cessation from work. In the place of striving and commerce, creativity and productivity, we are instructed simply to be: to rest, rejoice, be with family and friends, eat and drink for pleasure, talk about what really matters, sing, pray, and give thanks for our blessings. (https://www.thriveglobal.com/stories/42136-tuning-in-the-gift-of-shabbat)
Sabbath is a gift and Sabbath is medicine for the turbulent life. If you live like I do, you don’t always take this seriously. But there are many people who take this idea of Sabbath serious. Modern Jews will observe Sabbath. In the Christian community, Seventh Day Adventists take very seriously this idea of Sabbath. They believe that they are supposed to worship on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, and use the rest of the day for rest.
Somewhere in the midst of becoming Christian, many people who call themselves Christians forgot about the importance of Sabbath. Very early on in the church, Christians began worshiping, not on Saturday, but on Sunday. The reasons for Christians worshipping on Sunday were varied, but they had to do with a belief that Sunday was the Lord’s Day because it was the day that marked Jesus’ resurrection. But just because Christians moved the day of worship to Sunday to better celebrate Jesus, it did not have to mean that Christians returned the gift of rest that God tried to give us.
If you are living in the midst of a turbulent life, take back this gift from God. Take the gift of sabbath—rest. Rest really is medicine for the turbulent life. Perhaps this means going to bed an hour early for a week. Perhaps this means putting the iPhone in a box on a certain day. Perhaps this means unplugging from social media for a few hours. Perhaps this means taking a long walk. Perhaps this means neglecting the to-do list for one day.
If you are stressed and living a turbulent life, it is not going to get any better doing the same old thing. You can’t out busy busy, you can’t out rush rush. Only rest can stop the rush. Only Sabbath can calm turbulence. So, let’s get resting.
Decatur United Methodist Church
Our hope is that these messages will be relevant in your life and encourage you in faith.